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Is Obama’s Vetting Finally Beginning?

As trivial as the Obama-eats-dogs and composite-girlfriend memes might seem, they actually speak to a deeper issue. At the Telegraph, Tim Stanley argues:

What stands out from the composite story isn’t that Obama amalgamated characters, it’s that the press hadn’t noticed until now. As with the dog story, this confirms the suspicion that the mainstream media gave Obama a free pass in 2008 and declined to check too deeply into his background. Even The Atlantic’s [David] Graham admits that he’s never read Dreams From My Father, and neither, it would seem, has anyone else in the press corps. They have the excuse that the book is incredibly narcissistic and boring, but otherwise isn’t this exactly the sort of character assessment/assassination that should have happened four years ago? …

And yet we knew everything there was to know about Sarah Palin, despite the fact that she was in the race for a much shorter space of time than Obama – and only running for veep.

This election, the Romney campaign is not going to be broaching the issue of Obama’s past, so unless the press brings up these stories, they won’t be discussed. Republicans are intent on running against Obama’s record, not his personal background, and it’s obvious why. Conservatives might find Obama’s past radical associations horrifying, but these stories have never been very successful at informing public opinion about the president. And some of the nuttier conspiracy theories about Obama’s past, particularly the birther movement, have actually been politically helpful for him. The president and his staff elevated the birther nonsense last spring, and his campaign even fundraised off of it.

In contrast, the White House is reportedly uneasy about the upcoming David Maraniss book. Because Maraniss is not a conservative, his reporting can’t be easily dismissed, and his book threatens to undermine the life narrative crafted by the Obama campaign. Politico reports:

The success of Dreams has given Obama nearly complete control of his own life narrative, an appealing tale that has been the foundation of his political success. But Maraniss’s biography threatens that narrative by questioning it: Was Obama’s journey entirely spiritual and intellectual? Or was it also grounded in the lower realms of ambition and calculation? …

There are some signs the president himself is concerned. In fact, Obama was so intent on having his side of the story convincingly articulated, he granted the author a virtually unprecedented 90-minute Oval Office interview, twice the allotted time Maraniss thought he was getting.

The brief excerpt from the book in Vanity Fair suggests that this will be the first serious, mainstream examination of Obama’s younger years, and a very compelling one at that. I’m not under any illusions that Maraniss will provide a full vetting of Obama in his book, which will likely be sympathetic to the president. But the fact that Maraniss has uncovered basic, and fascinating details of Obama’s life that were previously glossed over by the rest of the media, may at least prod other reporters into doing their jobs.


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